Swedish fashion brand Acne Studios has deployed an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID-based solution to enable omnichannel sales at its 45 stores worldwide. The installation, which took place across 12 countries, was taken live in February 2017 following a three-month rollout. With the technology, provided by Nedap Retail, Acne Studios can ensure the accuracy of its inventory at all of its stores, thereby improving the speed and accuracy at which products are sold via the omnichannel. The retailer has integrated the RFID tags into its price labels.
Acne Studios (an acronym for Ambition to Create Novel Expressions) is the luxury apparel division of a design, film, production and advertising company of the same name, founded in 1996. In 2006, the firm became a standalone fashion brand. Originally only located in Sweden, the company has now opened stores throughout Europe, as well as in the United States and Asia.
The retailer's environmental strategy focuses on selling apparel that is high-quality, with a long life. One of its early goals was to increase the amount of environmentally friendly materials in its products, and in 2014 it added a goal that 20 percent of all fabrics used in its "never-out-of-stock" products should be made of organic cotton or similarly environmentally stable material.
To accomplish the "never out of stock" model, the company deployed a comprehensive inventory-management system at all of its stores. However, it required considerable labor hours for staff members at each store to count inventory, and was also prone to errors.
In October 2016, the company approached Nedap seeking a solution. "The priority was stock accuracy for omnichannel," says Danny Haak, Nedap's !D Cloud product manager. At each store, Acne Studios already printed a price tag specific to each product in that market, with the currency for that country. Because price tags were already being printed at the stores, the company opted to integrate the RFID tag directly into the price label so that there would only be one tag for each product.
The company trialed the technology at a single store in Stockholm by tagging all products and tracking them via Nedap's Bluetooth- and RFID-enabled readers during weekly inventory counts on the sales floor and in stock rooms. After several weeks of testing, the company determined that the system provided the inventory visibility that it needed. Acne Studios then began deploying the system worldwide.
Each store uses a printer from SATO that prints EPC UHF RFID labels. Each tag is linked to the merchandise, including its stock-keeping unit SKU, in Acne's back-end software.
Staff members employ a Nedap handheld RFID reader to interrogate each tag's ID number as it is placed in the store front, and again during weekly inventory checks. The readers utilize a Bluetooth connection to an Apple iPod that runs Nedap's app and forwards the collected data to the Nedap !D Cloud software. The software interprets each item's location and ID, then forwards it to Acne Studio's own inventory-management software.
In this way, the company knows what products are on hand, where they are located and when, so that each omnichannel purchase can be fulfilled by the store closest to the customer. Acne's software can then place replenishment orders as soon as the minimal inventory numbers are reached.
Deploying the system within months, in 12 different countries, posed some challenges, Haak says, since many of the stores have customers and personnel of different cultures speaking different languages. Nedap provided training material for workers in the more than a dozen different countries and cultures, Haak says, and the app is available in numerous languages. However, because the technology is cloud-based, the installation required that stores only purchase the hardware, and that they access the software in the cloud.